Troupe, Quincy

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Troupe, Quincy

July 22, 1939

Quincy Thomas Troupe Jr. has successfully bridged literary and popular culture as a poet, performer, editor, publisher, biographer, scholar, educator, children's writer, screenwriter, art and music critic, and community arts activist. His career has been unified by a deeply rooted sense of place, a grounding in the blues/jazz matrix, a mediation between local and diasporic black experiences, and a commitment to honor what he calls "the continuum of African spirituality."

Troupe was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Dorothy Marshall Smith Troupe and Quincy Troupe Sr., a catcher and manager for the Cleveland Buckeyes and, for six months, the Cleveland Indians. Quincy Troupe Jr. was raised in St. Louis in a politically active family, and as a boy he was an avid reader, a talented athlete, and a member of the church choir. He attended Grambling College in Louisiana, and he played for the Army basketball team in Europe for two years. A knee injury sent him home, and he then moved to Los Angeles, where he received an A.A. degree in journalism from Los Angeles City College in 1967.

Troupe joined the Watts Writers' Workshop, and during this fertile and volatile time he taught community-based creative writing workshops and black literature classes at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California. He also co-edited Shrewd magazine, directed the Malcolm X Center in Los Angeles, and ran the John Coltrane Summer Festival. He went on to teach at Ohio University; Richmond College (in Staten Island, New York); the University of California, Berkeley; California State University, Sacramento; and the University of Ghana. Troupe spent many years in New York City, teaching at the College of Staten Island and Columbia University's Graduate Writing Program. He returned to the West Coast in 1990 to teach literature and creative writing at the University of California, San Diego.

While in Los Angeles, Troupe began his lifelong commitment to promoting the work of black writers and musicians by publishing the anthology Watts Poets and Writers: A Book of New Poetry and Essays (1968). In 1970 Troupe founded Confrontation: A Journal of Third World Literature, which led to one of his most significant contributions as an editor, Giant Talk: An Anthology of Third World Writings (1975). Troupe's other works include The Inside Story of TV's "Roots" (1978), written with David L. Wolper, which sold over a million copies. He paid tribute to his friend James Baldwin by soliciting essays for James Baldwin: The Legacy (1989), and he gained notoriety through his collaboration with Miles Davis on Miles: The Autobiography (1989) and the more personal Miles and Me (2000).

As a poet, Troupe fuses an international poetic sensibility with black American vernacular language and culture. His books include Embryo Poems 19671971 (1972); Snake-Back Solos: Selected Poems, 19691977 (1978); Skulls Along the River (1984); Weather Reports: New and Selected Poems (1991); Avalanche: Poems (1996); Choruses: Poems (1999); and Transcircularities: New and Selected Poems (2002). Troupe's densely packed, fast-moving poems are rooted in the cadences of black speech, shaped by the driving, improvisatory energy of jazz, and informed by irony, humor, and political anger. Described as "urbane and at times profane," Troupe is also a riveting performer who riffs like a horn soloist and personally engages his audience.

Troupe is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including two American Book Awards. On June 11, 2002, Troupe was appointed California's first official poet laureate. However, he resigned this post and retired from his teaching position after it was revealed that he had falsified a B.A. degree from Grambling College.

See also Poetry, U.S.


Troupe, Quincy. Root Doctor (audio CD). New Alliance Records, 1995.

Turner, Douglas. "Miles and Me: An Interview with Quincy Troupe." African American Review 36, no. 3 (2002): 429434.

lorrie n. smith (2005)